Journal Volume 1 1992

Colonel Burnaby (continued/4)

‘No, my man.’ said Burnaby, pushing back the bottle. ‘Look after yourself.’

‘Oh, colonel, I fear I can say no more than god bless you,’ said Wood.

In that fearful melee fell also Captain Darley, Lieutenants Wolfe and De Lisle and Majors Atherton and Carmichael, all of whom had found themselves like Burnaby outside the square - brave men every one. These events took place in even less time than it has taken to describe them; and then the whole thing was blotted out by the masses of the enemy, the scene becoming, to use Lord Dundonald's words, a veritable pandemonium - every man fighting for dear life, in the confusion a few of the Arabs, finding all their efforts in vain, began to turn and ride off the field. With cheer upon cheer the English hailed their victory, dearly won as it had been, and volley after volley was sent into the flying foe.

Terribly wounded as Burnaby was, he still lived, though life was fast ebbing away; among the sounds that last reached his ears were the cries of victory. At that moment Lord Binning ran up and knelt at his side. Burnaby opened his eyes, gently pressed his comrade's hand, and was gone.

And there he lay on this fatal field - a huge Sudanese spear with a blade sixteen inches long and four wide, covered with blood, crossing his body - probably the weapon that gave him his death wound. Poor Moses was found hard by stabbed in a dozen places.

There were also slain at Abou Klea, Major Gough, of the Royal Dragoons, Lieutenant Law, 4th Dragoon Guards, and Lieutenant Pigott, of the Naval Brigade, while Major Dickson and Lord Airlie were wounded.

Burnaby was buried about seven o'clock on the morning after the battle in a grave on some rising ground twenty yards north of the spot where he fell, and close beside the other officers and men killed in the battle, the burial service being read by Lord Charles Beresford. The spot was marked by a low stone wall and a large mound of stones. The immense hordes of dead Arabs were, by necessity, left unburied. Round the arms of the corpses were found leather bands supporting a little case containing a prayer in Arabic, composed by the Mahdi, who had declared that it would convert the British bullets into water. For long after the fight a great canopy of smoke hung over the battlefield, and vultures pounced upon the dead camels immediately they were deserted.


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